Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Viking Spear - A Historical Project

"....the spear held great cultural significance to the Viking warrior, as the primary weapon of Odin, the king of the Norse gods and the god of warfare, was the spear Gungnir..."

"The spear was the most commonly used weapon in the Viking age. It was often the choice of someone who was unable to afford a sword."

Last month I was down to mother's farm doing some painting when I spied a rough hewned staff of wood that was previously used as a walking stick. It got me to thinking about the possibility of making a spear, specifically a Norse version as my reading of late had been about the Viking era.

Sidebar - the Norse,as a culture, are greatly misunderstood. The Viking era only lasted about three centuries and was a period of raiding, expansion and piracy. Over population, lack of opportunities and internal power struggles resulted in the rise of Viking raiders looking for riches to finance battles at home. Once the numerous Norse kingdoms were united the Viking era essentially came to an end. The impact of that era was immense. They were raiders but also traders and explorers. The geopolitical map of Europe was changed and Norse influence extended into Russia, the Mediterranean and the New World. We tend to view the Norse as barbarians but, in fact, they were the opposite. Skilled craftsmen and sailors they were also story tellers and artisans adept at trade and commerce.

The spear is an ultimate weapon or tool. Simple in design, versatile and easy to manufacture, I would hazard a guess that every human society had some version of the spear at any given point of time. In function and design it is rudimentary yet effective.

Geo's Viking Spear

Ordered a Windlass Steelcraft's Viking spear head online from Reliks, a Canadian based company specializing in ancient and medieval wares, clothing and weapons. Made of carbon steel it was a functional piece although with unsharpened edges.

While waiting for the spear point to arrive I hand sanded the staff then added a mahogany stain. This process was repeated several times as I wanted to add a rustic quality to the wood while accenting the wood grain. Once I got the look I liked I added several coats of varnish to both weatherproof and harden the finish. The staff has taken an Damascus folded steel quality to the wood grain..

The spearhead has a taper which required some "whittling" of the staff to secure a good fit. A coating of glue and the use of two brass screws then secured the spear point to the staff.

There is some debate over the length of traditional Viking spears due to the existence of both thrusting and throwing spears in Norse culture. I opted to make mine just shy of six feet in length(70.5 inches) with a point of balance (POB) at 27 inches.

Things I do for fun. Next up I think I will try and recreate a Viking shield to compliment the spear. Obviously a more involved process it may well become a winter project. Stay tuned. 

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